‘The Tomorrow Man’ Review: Love Among the Neuroses

‘The Tomorrow Man’ Review: Love Among the Neuroses

Sometimes you’d think there was a conspiracy among movie stylists to turn older female characters into a combination of sister-wife and refugee from a Laura Ashley sample sale. As Ronnie in the late-life romance “The Tomorrow Man,” the lovely Blythe Danner is their latest victim. Swathed in mismatched separates, shapeless woolens and schoolgirl ankle socks, Ronnie is supposed to look quirky; instead, she just looks like she doesn’t own a full-length mirror.

Written and directed by Noble Jones, “The Tomorrow Man” is a cloying, at times disturbing tale of two dotty seniors whose eccentricities unexpectedly mesh. Ronnie’s issues, though — she’s a timid hoarder who likes war documentaries — are mild compared to the aggressively paranoid lens through which Ed (John Lithgow) views the world. An apocalypse-obsessed retiree whose time is spent stocking his fallout shelter and communing online with fellow doom-and-gloom survivalists, Ed stalks Ronnie at the supermarket until she agrees to have coffee with him.

Ignoring the fact that Ed should scare, rather than charm, most women like Ronnie, “The Tomorrow Man” wends its whimsical way toward love, using physical objects as metaphors for psychological baggage. There is a market for this kind of low-key pablum — especially with such fine leads — where characters are little more than bundles of idiosyncrasies. Yet it’s precisely because Lithgow is so good that Ed’s alarming mental problems resist the movie’s pressure to turn them into comic relief.

Had Jones embraced this, a potentially more honest and involving story about dating and mental decline might have resulted, one that didn’t downplay Ed’s hallucinations or his upsetting family dynamics. Or mark key emotional moments with the precious 1970s pop song “Muskrat Love.”

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